Lonely, bereaved and crisis-hit pensioners will be streamed towards social clubs, self-help groups, education and volunteering projects, instead of being handed drugs under an innovative new pilot project to tackle emotional isolation in Londonderry.
The ‘Social Prescribing’ programme - launched at St Columb’s Park House on Friday - aims to help older people address social, emotional or practical needs by linking them to sources of support and activities within their local community.
The pilot has been funded by the Western Local Commissioning Group and designed by the Western Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) which have brought together the healthcare professionals, voluntary and community representatives and service users and carers involved in making the project happen.
Dr Brendan O’Hare, Western ICP Clinical Lead, said: “This initiative highlights how, alongside our local commissioning colleagues, local GPs and community and voluntary partners, we can make a real difference to enhancing older people’s health and wellbeing and help them live as full and healthy a life as possible.
“Older people who may not require a medical prescription but who may be experiencing personal difficulties such as social isolation, bereavement, a family crisis or chronic loneliness can self-refer or be referred to the programme by their GP or another health professional to receive onward support from a dedicated Social Prescribing Coordinator and access the most appropriate community and voluntary services in the locality.”
The pilot is currently available to patients aged over 65 of Aberfoyle Medical Practice and Eglinton Medical Practice and is being delivered by Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, in conjunction with RAPID, in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board.
Older people referred to the service will first be visited by a Social Prescribing Coordinator to undertake an initial assessment and discuss suitable options including: social clubs, physical activity, self-help groups, volunteering, learning, counseling, and advice and guidance services. The Coordinator will then support the older person to access to the necessary services and will remain in contact to review progress.
Speaking following the launch, Western Local Commissioning Group Chair, Dr Ciaran Mullan said: “The Western Local Commissioning Group is delighted to invest in the development of the Social Prescribing pilot programme.
“We have made £36,000 available to improve the quality of life of older people and provide practical support to overcome barriers in signposting to the broad range of important services that can be provided by the community and voluntary sector.
“GPs and other health and social care providers are not always aware of the full range of community and voluntary services available and the Social Prescribing programme will allow ease of referral of patients by providing one single point of contact. The initiative underlines the Western Local Commissioning Group’s commitment, in collaboration with the Western ICPs, to delivering more services at home and in the community as one of the key principles of Transforming Your Care.”